Mar 10

Academy Award for Best Costume Design: Black Panther Wakanda Forever

by Team Whering

The Academy Award - or Oscar - for Best Costume Design is a category which recognises immense creativity in the costume department and their ability to dress each and every character in a given film. In previous years, films such as Little Women, The Great Gatsby, Phantom Thread, and Anna Karenina have been awarded the coveted gold statue for their achievements in the category. Notice any similarities? All of these films (with few exceptions in recent decades) are historical films, with the other genres often nominated being fantasy and science fiction. This year is no exception, with Babylon being set in the 1920s, Elvis taking us on a journey between the 1930s through to the 1990s, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris in the 1950s, while Everything Everywhere All At Once and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are the contemporary science fiction nominees.

With that being said, and the Academy not finding anything set in the present-day impressive enough from a fashion and costume perspective, I thought it would be interesting to do a deep dive and get to know why the nominated films stood out this year over the others.

To jump to the other nominees, see below:

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The Black Panther marvel series is no stranger to the Oscars — especially not the Best Costume Design category. Ruth E. Carter returned as Costume Designer after taking the Oscar home back in 2018 for the first movie. She received praise for blending a superhero spectacle with real-life African tradition through her fashion choices.

While I love the first movie and its sequel equally — for different reasons — admittedly the costume design in Wakanda Forever stood out to me more than it did in the first movie. And I feel as though I’m not the only one. Entertainment Weekly, for example, pointed out how Carter expanded the lavish world of Wakanda created in the first film, creating a “rich visual feast” this time around.

I mean, remember the funeral scene toward the beginning of the movie? The heartbreaking aspect aside, the visual landscape created with the costumes was truly breathtaking.

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Carter recalls this specific scene being quite ‘intimidating’ due to the colourful nature of African fabric, as well as the presence of multiple different tribes in Wakanda — all of which had to have aspects that made them unique from the other.

Carter doesn’t shy away from crediting the “hundreds of artists” who influence the costumes, calling it a “labour of love” — It took a village to create all the outfits from the Marvel visual development team, the guidance from historians and oceanographers, and the small but mighty team of garment workers who embroidered, painted and assembled every single piece we see on-screen.

With a new film, also comes a new Black Panther suit. Carter talks about wanting the new Black Panther suit to be packed with details reflective of Shuri, noting the iridescent dots on the helmet which remind viewers of the similar face paint she’s worn to battle, while still paying homage to the earlier suit worn by the late Chadwick Boseman.

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Another notable superhero suit is worn by Warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira), which gets upgraded towards the end of the film, into what Shuri calls “Midnight Angel”. The suit is something that comes straight from the Marvel comics, however, Carter tweaks it slightly to include real African design and the dubbed name of the armour written out in the fictional Wakandan alphabet.

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When it came to, arguably the star of the second film, Queen Ramona (Angela Bassett), Carter wanted to introduce a more powerful image of her character, contrasting with her softer appearance in the first film. And though all credit can’t be given to the costume design, we can’t dismiss the fact that perhaps it played a strong role in gaining Bassett enormous acclaim and numerous awards and nominations for her strong and powerful performance in this sequel.

With the film totaling over 2000 costumes, and Carter’s meticulous attention to detail when it came to the Wakandan characters, the newly introduced Tolokan tribe, Queen Ramona, and everyone in between, her second nomination (fourth overall) comes as no surprise.

To jump to the other nominees, see below:

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